Internal or External, That is the Question

This is one of the most asked question I answer related to backpacking. It is too bad there is not a simple answer. Don’t you hate it when someone answers your question with a question? Well unfortunately I have to ask. What kind of backpacking are you going to be doing? What kind of backpacker are you? There are many variables here. Let me give you the basics of the packs and the design issues involved and hopefully this will help you make a more informed decision. The design of the backpack internal or external is designed to make the load in the backpack more comfortable to carry. One way that these packs do this is to distribute the weight to areas of the body that are better able to carry this weight, like the hips and to a lesser degree the shoulders. This is a challenge for a backpack since it is usually a bag of sorts. comes the frame. External frames distribute the weight to the frame and then splits the weight between the hips and shoulders through a waist belt and shoulder straps. The internal frame does the same except it has a frame inside the packs fabric. The internal frame pack design attempts to keep the weight closer to the body than the external frame pack. This makes sense if you think of someone standing with a bowling ball in their hands. If that person holds the bowling ball at arms length (Farther away from the body) the weight of the ball feels heavier than if the person held the ball close to the body. The weight is the same but the position makes a real difference. Thus internal packs can make a payload feel lighter than its external counterpart. However, the internal pack has some downsides. The first is heat and airflow. The pack is directly against your back and this will retain heat and inhibit airflow. Another downside is pockets and accessories. The internal pack does not have a frame on the outside of the pack to tie things onto and designers of internal packs generally try to keep the packs size and shape narrow and slim, usually minimizing the additional pockets etc. There are additional issues about pack design to write about but this is a good start.  Backpacks are a very personal item and is subject to personal preferences. There are some situations like trail running and climbing that the internal pack is obviously a better choice but for general use and backpacking it is to each his own. I will post more on pack design and concepts.



  • Jeremy

    The pack is directly against you back and this will retain heat and inhibit airflow.
    you should be your.

  • admin

    Thank you Jeremy for the help with the blog.

  • Kiki

    Thanks for writing this.


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